Friday, 03 December 2021

Charity sees demand for defibrillators soar after footballer scare

Charity sees demand for defibrillators soar after footballer scare

DEMAND for public access defibrillators has increased since footballer Christian Eriksen’s collapse on the pitch, says the woman behind the installation of many in the Henley area.

Sarah Roberts, who launched the Millie’s Dream appeal in 2013, says she has received five requests for advice from community groups, nursing homes and sports clubs which fear they are ill-equipped to help anyone who goes into cardiac arrest.

These included Henley Hockey Club, which has launched a £1,000 appeal towards a defibrillator for its clubhouse off Reading Road. The club approached Mrs Roberts on June 13, the day after the Danish midfielder was taken ill during a Euro 2020 clash against Finland, and she put it in touch with suppliers.

Her charity, which she founded because her teenage daughter Millie was born with a heart and lung condition, says others have been in touch including parish councils in villages with no defibrillator or larger villages with one but which want another.

Mrs Roberts has also identified several “dark spots” in Henley with no defibrillator within a few minutes’ walk, which is vital because a patient’s odds of survival drop by about 10 per cent with every minute that they aren’t treated.

These include the “top shops” in Greys Road, near the junction with King James Way, as well as parts of Makins Road, Valley Road, Blandy Road and the new Highlands Park estate, off Greys Road, being built by Crest Nicholson.

Mrs Roberts, of King’s Road, Henley, hopes to raise the money for these but must first upgrade existing devices whose batteries and adhesive chest pads have exceeded their two-year lifespan.

There are 36 in the Henley area which are kept in a locked box with a code provided by 999 operators. About half will need attention within the next year or so at a cost of £250 each.

At least three of the defibrillators are of an older type for which parts have been discontinued so they will have to be replaced at a cost of about £2,000 each.

These are at HSBC in Market Place, Henley, Crazies Hill village hall and the Piggott School in Wargrave. Mrs Roberts has received about £2,000 in donations since the Henley Standard publicised this issue in May, allowing her to place her first orders.

In addition, some individuals have agreed to make a regular direct debit payment for  the long-term upkeep of the machines. 

Leander Club, Henley Rowing Club and Upper Thames Rowing Club in Henley, which have one debrillator each, are doing likewise.

Mrs Roberts said: “I’m so thankful to the Henley Standard for highlighting this important issue and to everybody who has come forward, although we could always use more help.

“We’re in talks with another charity which could make a hefty donation soon but all contributions are welcome and will reduce the chances of something horrific happening.

“The hockey club is a prime example of how interest in defibrillators has risen since the Eriksen incident.

“He wouldn’t have survived without one and it has reminded people that anybody, including elite athletes, can suffer a cardiac arrest. It was a shocking incident but the positive outcome has driven home the good they can do.

“Some people still wrongly assume that it only affects the frail or elderly but Britain loses 12 people under 30 to cardiac events every week so we need more machines and to ensure the public feel confident using them.

“People worry that intervening will make things worse but they’re simple to use for anyone aged 12 or over.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in the Henley area but it’s vital to maintain the existing ones first — there’s no point having them if they’re not viable.

“Most people know somebody who has been affected by a heart problem and we aren’t asking for large amounts in the grand scheme of things.”

Retired surgeon David Wright, of St Mark’s Road, Henley, who survived a heart attack at Henley leisure centre in 2019 thanks to a defibrillator, is co-ordinating volunteers to maintain the charity’s devices.

He said: “I’m trying to get more businesses involved and working out the best people to approach, which will take a bit of time.”

To make a donation, email sarah@active-viii.org

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